Olson examines how media portray race

By Erika Moreno / Delta Staff Writer

Debbie Olson is an English professor at Missouri Valley College who is working on an article about how the media portrays white and black juveniles.

Olson has found that the media often depicts black juveniles in a negative way. For example, they will show images and make them look suspect already.

There is a long history in Hollywood and media of racism with black people and children particularly perceived as criminals and suspects. However, the reality is that youth of all races commit crimes and come into contact with police.

Olson found that the way the media depicted young offenders was based on their race. For example, if it was a white kid getting shot or being bad there is always a justification on why that person went bad. For example a mental illness or he came from a bad family.

However, that’s never the case when it comes to a child of color. Therefore, Olson wants to gather evidence on shootings by the police and how they are talked about in the local papers.

Olson wants to show a pattern of something that is going on everywhere. She said that its not just national presentation; it’s also local presentation of children of color as criminals instead of as victims.

Olson had a previous book examining racial issues published in 2017. Titled “Black Children in Hollywood Cinema: Cast in Shadow,” the book focused on two cases: Jordan Brown, who is white, and Lionel Tate, who is black.

Jordan murdered his fathers fiancée and her unborn child when he was 11 years old. There was evidence that he was the one that had committed the crime. However, people were still skeptical that he had done that. The gun had his finger prints and the media depicted him as someone who was a victim of police.

In Florida, Lionel Tate was play wrestling with his cousin and he killed her. Tate continued to claim it was an accident. The History Channel actually did a documentary on him. In the documentary, they make it so dark with pounding music. They make Tate out to be an evil child. They didn’t show Tate riding his bike or playing a sport which he liked. They didn’t show him as a normal child which is what they probably would have done for a white child which is exactly what they did for Brown.

While Brown murdered someone and Tate just got a little too rough with his cousin, Tate was depicted as an unfeeling uncaring child.

How white and black juveniles are portrayed in the media has evolved throughout the years. While Olson doesn’t see positive changes in the news media, other media such as film and television presentation have evolved better. Olson brought up the show Blackish with all the young black children who are awesome and smart. In addition, film is moving forward since Disney has one African American princess.

However, Olson said that when the Hunger Games came out the little girl who played Rue is black and that caused for racist people in the internet to come out because Olson says that a lot of comments were saying how she wasn’t the white innocent girl from the book. When if you pay attention to the book never once does it say that she is white. It all just falls back on the idea that black children are not perceived as innocent.

“That kind of mentality is still with us and that’s why police officers often times just draw there gun and they don’t even think to find out what’s going on,” Olson said.

Olson foresees work on her article continuing into 2021. In addition to working on two other projects. she is still gathering data and that takes a lot of time. Once she gathers all her information she has to read through it all and figure out the writing portion of it.

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